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Holiday Missions and Traditions

Monday, December 23, 2019

Categories: Blog, Community

Photo of lots of presents under the tree

  • Bicycles for the family
  • A skateboard
  • Dress-up clothes
  • A winter jacketWoman in all black holding up a small minnie mouse costume

No matter the wish, CATA works hard every year to make it happen through the Operation Santa program. Over the years, the program has allowed CATA to team up with a local elementary school and provide Christmas gifts to hundreds of families in need.

“I love being able to give back to our community in such a special way,” says Pam Latka, CATA Marketing Manager. “I also love what it does for our employees. It gives everyone a chance to meet people within the organization, and involve their families in their community. It’s a good thing for us to do.”

Pam facilitates the Operation Santa program within CATA in creative ways, including a  year-long can drive that raises hundreds of dollars. Every November, she distributes over 100 gift wish tags to three Christmas trees within CATA facilities. Employees take as many tags as they are able, and purchase gifts for local families.

Presents are sorted and delivered to the elementary school, along with Scotch tape, bows and wrapping paper.  “We give them to the parents so they can wrap the gifts and give them to their children on Christmas,” says Pam.

Photo of bicycles in front of a treeOperation Santa has a special way of unifying employees toward a greater goal. A team of three maintenance workers adopted an entire tree full of wishes. Matt Oudsema, CATA’s Director of Planning and Development, has made it a family tradition to deliver the gifts with his wife and daughter. 

CATA has taken part in Operation Santa for the last 18 years, adopting 37 children in 2019, and 892 since the launch of the program in 2002. Employees have gifted everything from homemade teddy bears and crocheted blankets to bikes, remote control cars and train sets. 

“We often receive thank you notes from some of the kids or their family members,” Pam says. “Sometimes they will be addressed to Santa, so it’s fun to think that we are keeping these kids' Christmas dreams alive.”

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